II. Initial Contact
Report for the
Map depicts tactical
The remaining major elements of the battalion closed Hardcore on 4 February. A Company pushed to the southwest, B Company to the north, and D Company to the northeast from LZ Hardcore. Besides the usual search and destroy mission, D Company was to secure the area for the extraction of the UH1 gunship which had been shot down during the combat assault on the previous day; the gunship was rigged and extracted. No maneuver company had contact other than for an occasional sniper round until afternoon.
About 1300, when pushing west into the small village of Tho Son (AT985516), B Company hit a determined NVA unit, estimated to be a reinforced platoon or larger size unit. The fight ensued until dark. On four occasions the B Company commander, Captain Bruce G. Shipley, hammered against the hostile position; each time was with the support of artillery. Army gunships raked the area. The battalion requested and received an immediate air strike on the target.
The enemy would wait until lead elements were within 3-5 meters away before firing from their positions, later determined to be an "L" shaped ambush. Although the enemy positions were not fully exploited until the following day, B Company confirmed three enemy killed and captured three (3) AK 47 rifles and eight enemy packs. It is believed that the enemy losses were in fact much higher. Finally, the battalion commander ordered Captain Shipley to withdraw from the area of contact in order to reorganize for the night and prepare for the next day’s offensive.
In order to withdraw, Captain Shipley had to evacuate one seriously wounded man from the forward area of contact. The assigned Dustoff aircraft, piloted by Warrant Officer Norman Shanahan and Gregory Shuntz, effected a daring voluntary pick-up of the wounded man. Supported by a ring of outgoing suppressive fire from elements of B Company, the pilot spiraled the Huey into the tight perimeter, now blazing with outgoing protective fire. Flying conditions were complicated by the oncoming dusk. However, the extraction was incredibly effected without hits on the Dustoff aircraft. The battalion commander, who witnessed the rescue from his OP at Hardcore and listened to the radio transmissions associated with the pick-up remarked that if Hollywood had produced the drama that unfolded in about 15 minutes, no one would believe it!
The battalion commander decided to attack the stubborn position with two companies (B and D) at first light the next day, 5 February. The attack was from a new direction (from the south) and was preceded by an artillery preparation. The execution of the attack was marred by an artillery computation error which caused 2 rounds of 105 mm howitzer to fall within the command group and the 1st platoon of D Company. The company commander, Captain Charles L. Cosand, was among the nine friendly troops wounded. Although he suffered hits in the face and leg, Captain Cosand resolutely maintained command of D Company until the objective was secured before temporarily releasing the company to the executive officer, in order to be treated by the battalion surgeon.
With the enemy driven off by the ground action of the previous day, the artillery firing during the night and the two company attacks, both companies now swept through the objective easily. In retrospect Captain Shipley concluded that because of the configuration of the "L" shaped enemy position, without prior knowledge of its exact location,
only a direct assault was possible. He had attempted to outflank it the previous day without success. The results of the first three days of action were 5 NVA killed, 3 weapons captured, with 16 wounded suffered by friendly forces.